Failure to find basket in final 12 minutes dashes Grafton boysâ€™ plan to upset undefeated Homestead
Thirsting for a statement win against Homestead last Friday night, the Grafton boysâ€™ basketball team found no relief.
Instead, a second-half scoring drought drained the Black Hawks, who saw a seven-point lead fade into a 57-45 home loss.
After Logan Hilgartâ€™s three-point basket gave Grafton a 43-36 advantage with 4 minutes, 42 seconds left in the third quarter, his team failed to make another floor shot.
In fact, the Hawksâ€™ only points in the final 12:42 came on two free throws by Will Birch early in the final period.
â€śWe had poor spacing in our offense, which made it very easy for Homestead to defend us,â€ť Grafton coach Bob Maronde said.
â€śIn the third quarter, we had a lot of chances to build the lead, but we just didnâ€™t execute. When we got an open look, we couldnâ€™t make it.â€ť
The Highlandersâ€™ big rally, which included a 21-2 run to end the game, allowed them to improve to 3-0 in the North Shore Conference and 5-0 overall. But the win didnâ€™t come easily.
Grafton trailed, 17-13, after one quarter but fought back in the second period. Birch hit a pair of three-pointers, and Nate Koehler added another, as the Hawks surged to a 26-21 lead with four minutes left in the half.
The lead see-sawed the rest of the quarter until Homestead took a 34-33 lead at intermission on a buzzer-beating tip-in by Jaylen Key.
Grafton stayed on the attack early in the third quarter and built a seven-point lead on back-to-back threes by Birch and Hilgart. However, after the Highlanders called a time-out, they extended their defense and began controlling the interior.
Jack Poppâ€™s three-pointer with 1:50 left in the third period put Homestead ahead to stay at 44-43.
Popp, a sophomore guard, sparked his teamâ€™s comeback by scoring 10 of his 15 points in the second half.
â€śI thought we played really well in the first half on both ends of the court,â€ť said Maronde, whose team fell to 1-2 in NSC play and 2-3 overall.
â€śWe executed our offense and did a nice job defensively, but then we had some breakdowns. Our inexperience hurt us.â€ť
Homestead guard Jerrod Walton caused big problems for Grafton early in the game. The senior sliced through the Hawks defense for 16 of his game-high 22 points before halftime.
Guard Seth Cooley also sparked the Highlanders with a pair of three-pointers in the second half.
Birch and Koehler paced Grafton with 11 points apiece, but their team was unable to establish an interior presence. Eight of the Hawksâ€™ 11 field goals were three-pointers.
Despite the loss, Maronde remained upbeat about his team.
â€śWeâ€™ve got some young players who havenâ€™t been playing together for very long,â€ť he said.
â€śWhen I look at how far weâ€™ve come since the start of the season, itâ€™s pretty impressive.â€ť
Grafton 59, West Allis Hale 49
A second-half rally carried the Hawks to a nonconference road win Dec. 10.
Grafton trailed, 24-22, at intermission but controlled play the rest of the way. A 22-15 run in the fourth quarter sealed the outcome.
Sophomore forward Luke Benzschawel led the Hawks with 19 points, and Hilgart, a freshman, added 16.
Hale got a game-high 21 points from Joey Archer.
This week, Grafton continued NSC play against Whitefish Bay on Tuesday and will host defending champion Germantown a 7:30 p.m. Friday.
Image Information: A QUICK STEP allowed Grafton guard Alex Teich to slip inside the Homestead defense Friday night. Grafton surged to a seven-point lead in the third quarter but faded down the stretch in a North Shore Conference loss. Photo by Sam Arendt